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Running after fusion surgery

noseovertailnnoseovertail Posts: 387
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:41 AM in Exercise and Rehab
I haven't yet asked my surgeon, PT or PM about this yet but I just figured I'd get a few opinions from fellow spineys. Were any of you able to run after having fusion surgery? If so, how long after surgery did you have to wait?

I'm about 3.5 months post-op right now and I feel like I could handle running. I can walk a lot, ride a stationary bike, do core exercises, squats, etc. and I hope to start running soon if it's okay with my doctor. I am sick of these low impact work outs and I want to lose the weight I gained sitting on my butt in bed all day.

Any thoughts?


  • As you know, running is an activity that is jarring to all the joints of the body. I would be surprised if your surgeon would want you running prior to developing a strong fusion. I've read six to eight months on some surgeons' lists of post-surgical information.

    Could you find an activity that has less impact on the joints, such as riding a bike or an elliptical trainer or stepper? Brisk walking burns calories without the bad effects on the joints.
  • Thanks for your input, gwennie. I absolutely loathe the bike, the seat really hurts me a lot. It leaves me with a sore butt, lol. I'm going to ask the doc about an elliptical I'm just trying to save $$. We have a treadmill at home that I'd prefer to use, I'd have to reinstate our gym membership to use an elliptical or any other piece of gym equipment. I've been briskly walking and I can go pretty fast, but at that point it gets really old really quickly and I wish I could just run.

    My PT had me using an exercise ball to do some core exercises, I'll have to get one of those. *sigh*... it is such a slow process...

  • I don't have advice about running, but it sounds like you are doing fabulous just 3 months out. My surgery is this Friday and I'm hoping to go back to work after 3 months and this gives me inspiration!

    After my first surgery L4-5 decompression 4 years ago both my surgeon and PM really didn't want me running any more. They both have given me many "talks" throughout the years of learning to love "new" types of exercise and I have to admit, there have been many times I have played the game, "what if". What if I hadn't always been so hard on my body....

    They are both big advocates on biking, aquatics, eliptical, etc. I took up pilates and yoga, loved what it did for my body ~ the long and lean look, which was totally different then "typical" althletic look. An added bonus was how much it helped my back!

    Sounds like you are doing so well and I am so happy for you! I hope you cont to feel well and heal well! Keeping you in my thoughts and prayers. ~ Shari
  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,818
    It has already been mentioned here that Running/Jogger creates a lot of jarring at your joints. Even people without spinal problems manytimes wind up with joint problems.

    I was never a runner/jogger, so when my doctors told me to stay away from that, it really didn't make a difference to me.

    My doctors wanted me to have a no to low impact type of exercise and something that was cardio so you could get your body up and working. The 'choice' of equipment from several doctors and therapists was the elliptical machines.

    Treadmills were ok, but even using them on an inclince can create some problems.

    But you know that to make this type of decision, you and your doctor have to discuss this. To me, three months post surgery is a very short time period. The last thing you want to do is create any new problems.
    Ron DiLauro Spine-Health System Administrator
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences
    You can email me at: rdilauro@veritashealth.com
  • I would be interested to hear what your surgeon has to say on this. I am facing possible L4-L5 fusion if my upcoming discogram comes back positive. I kind of hope it does as I am out of options at this point.

    I know what you mean about getting bored with walking. And the exercise bike makes my tailbone hurt. I haven't been able to run in 3 years and I feel like such a slow, plodding mule when I am walking (not that I was a fast runner or anything). I would love to think that there is still a possibility that I could go back to it someday...
  • that you're doing so much better now. Don't know if you remember but we had surgery almost exactly a month apart so we're fairly close in our recovery. I know that my OS told me I could go back to playing softball in the spring - around April or May - and considering it's a pretty tough sport on the body (supposedly not a contact sport but I beg to differ lol). That would be right around the 6 mo mark. HOWEVER...I won't be going back, and completely by my choice. It was an easy decision in that I came to it quickly because I decided the health of the rest of my spine wasn't worth the fun. Emotionally though it was one of the most difficult decisions I have ever made. After playing for 25 yrs, I still can't figure out what in the world I will do that will serve as the social, emotional, and mental outlet that softball was for me.

    Anyway, point is I think it's something you have to discuss with your doctor, and weigh the pros and cons carefully. Trust me I know how boring the walking gets....been walking several miles a day for over 3 months. But a weekly hike (usually on a fairly flat trail) is one way I try work a little something different in. Of course right now I'm luck enough to live somewhere it's warm enough for me to do that right now. But maybe there are ways you can at least change things up a bit.

    Have you tried interval training? When it comes to the treadmill I've found that interval training not only makes the workout a little more interesting, but it is also a much better workout. Plus when you're focusing on the workout in 3-5 min increments it goes by a lot faster!
  • I know this post is a little older but wow, the fact that you feel like you could run is amazing.

    I am thinking running is out for me (I had microdiscectomy 08/09 and then a revision 3 weeks ago on same level 02/10 at L5-S1). If you have a lumbar fusion, I'd be surprised if running were allowed within the 1st year.

    What about aqua running? I know if I went for a fusion, they were going to have me do aqua therapy 3X/week. I know I watched "spirit of the marathon" where the olympic female US marathoner (back in 2005) had an injury so she trained in an aqua pool. It was literally a treadmill in a pool b/c her knee or foot couldn't take the 'beating' of regular running. Maybe it's an option?

    How are you doing?
  • never, ever. Admittedly, I've broken into a jog when I'm trying to get the elevator, etc., but I think going out for a run is something that will never happen for me. I still dream about it -- not that I was a great runner before hand, but I did occasionally enjoy going for a run. I really wish I could. I've also been told no horseback riding, and I'd love to do that.


    3 level spinal fusion, L3/4, L4/5, L5/S1, November 2008. Stiff, but I can walk.
  • HI Nose :H I wish I could recall the users name here who said she was about where you are now and went running and that night was in major pain. The next day she called her Dr and he flipped about her running !

    He told her never ever ever ever again to run - she said it took get use to as she was a former runner, but now she power walks.

    Check with your Dr and hopefully the news for you will be what you want to hear ;)
    L1 - S2 "gone" useless in 1 way or another. DDD. RA. Bone Spurs. Tons of nerve damage/issues. Stenosis. Both knees replaced. 50 yrs old. I had a great fall (hence my user name) at age 41 and it has been a domino effect every since.
  • I started running again (stupidly, I admit) at about 2 months post op. My surgeon was a runner so I think he understood my plight a little better than most. Basically, he said if it hurt, stop. And he advised me to stay off the trails and hit the pavement for awhile instead, as I have a tendency to trip over rocks and roots and get spooked by snakes and mountain bikers.

    Obviously 2 months out was way way way too early. I ran on and off until about month 6, when it finally hit home that I had had a major surgery and my body needed to recover.

    I kept to walking my usual trails, and finally picked up running at about month 14. My form is a little different now -- there is a lot more post run stretching involved, and inevitably the day after a long run is a little achy. I'm nowhere near where I was before in terms of distance or speed -- right now I max out at about 12 miles and am only running 8-9 min miles -- but I figure I got the rest of my life, so I can build up slowly and safely while my body adapts to the pounding.

    Interestingly, I can't bike anymore. You'd think that'd be easier on the back b/c there's less impact. But leaning over like that for so long is incredibly painful, so I had to retire my beloved bike. Probably for the best, as I spent most of my time propelling myself into trees anyway. :) Plus I got myself the most adorable little cruiser-looking Trek I could find, so I can at least ride around town while sitting fairly upright.

    I think you just gotta be smart about it. If your body is telling ya to stop, listen.
  • In July 2006 due to 24/7 level 7 pain, I had underwent minimally invasive L5/S1 TLIF.

    I could never run before without having severe cramping in one or both calf muscles before surgery. They'd twist and turn and are as hard as cement, and are excruciatingly painful.

    Seventeen months after surgery and with aggressive physical therapy, I was free of back pain. Several accupuncture sessions also helped rejuvenate the nerves in my left leg and buttocks.

    My PT said I'll never be able to play golf or run. I was doing all my daily strength & conditioning exercises, stretching and fast walking before and after surgery which I believe helped in my recovery.

    Summer of 2009 I was bored of my routine. One day when the weather outside was nice, I started running. About a few blocks later, I suddenly realized I had no calf pain at all!

    I starting running longer distances and before long I entered my first 5K race in 2010, my fourth year anniversary of my fusion. On my five-year check up with my surgeon, I told him what I was doing fearing an admonishment.

    He said my lower back healed nicely and I looked as fit as ever. As long as I keep up the core strength exercising, daily stretching, and aerobics, running should be okay within reason.

    I have since entered a few more 5K races. Weekly, I run daily alternating between 5K & 10K about 21 to 24 miles.

    Now, I have added running also on Saturdays. So far, I ran 9.5 miles and 10.0 miles.

    Has anyone here run in marathons after lumbar fusion? Have you had any issues or a recurrence of back or leg pain?

    I am planning on entering a marathon this coming Spring, and I am a bit worried if I could do it without issues. This could be my one and only marathon. I may stick to half marathons or shorter distances.

    Any input will certainly help.

  • A neurosurgery tech/nurse had a fusion and then ran alot and had another disk pop.
  • I am so hopeful, so impatient &, admittedly, fairly whiney. This is not only because I can't, run, do yoga, or go to spin class. Yet. Life around me didn't stop because of this. I still had to pack up my dad's house & move him. Despite having movers & a lot of help from my mom, this is day four of non-stop work. When I haven't been doing that, I've been keeping up with my 11 year old's cheer-heavy life. I'm not wanting to be whiney. So I will tell you my story. (It probably is ironic that I am a neurosurgical PA-C. And yes, my boss did BOTH surgeries.)

    Nine years ago, when I still had a 2yr old hanging off my neck, I had a 5/6 disc rupture. It was hitting my cord & making electricity shoot out of my finger. The MRI clearly showed the disc, etc. but what it also showed was degenerative disc disease at the 2 levels above & the one below.
    Since I was not symptomatic at any other level, we just did 5/6. Lots of healing time required. I wasn't nearly as much of a work-out freak as I am now, but I was still doing abc handsprings on the trampoline & loved Pilates a few days a week. I resumed the back handsprings about 3 months later & then started doing a little Pilates (how I ruptured it in the first place) a couple of months after that. I had had problems with stiffness, & tight muscle spasms. My neck would get really tired while I was looking through the microscope in surgery at work (Funny side-note: When you are the surgeon's PA, you only get 2 weeks off; not 6.)
    One day I was practicing my breathing with gentle spine stretch, trying to get my scapulae to slide down out of my ears & form a perfect line from my ears to my heels. Right when I exhaled there was the slightest pop of freedom. Something adjusted itself & I was pain-FREE. This was almost exactly 6 months after surgery. I could do anything! My films had shown a solid union a month earlier but I certainly wasn't feeling "fused" until that moment.

    Pain free until last spring. It started knawing at me again. So finally in January I just admitted it & got another MRI. Tomorrow I will be 3 weeks post 4-5 & 6-7 ACDF. I'm also almost 10 years older. I have to say that this one has been harder. But I feel myself healing.
    I walk 2-3 miles as often as I can. I'm very anxious to start back at yoga, running & spin. I know I will be doing all of those things because of how amazing I have felt before. But because life doesn't stop, neither has my pain. My husband just doesn't get it. He doesn't understand a thing about what this is like & he gets frustrated when I'm tired & just can't do any more for the day. This time I was able to take a month off of work. It was suppose to be healing time but instead, it has been non-stop demand for other physical activities of lifting, pushing, pulling, reaching, etc. the recovery was what I was dreading the most. This isn't self-pity. This is frustration. I want to be taking care of myself, but instead I am expected to take care of everyone else. Hopefully, now that this move is over, I can get a little more down time. I have to have the soma at night because by then, I'm over it. Unfortunately it, & the pain, are altering my mood for the worse.

  • Majohns86MMajohns86 Posts: 8
    edited 03/31/2015 - 10:56 AM
    I had my three month check up and my doctor said based on my x rays i can start into running very slowly. I did a 1 mile run and I could feel my back muscles moving so I know I have some time to heal. It wasnt painful just tight feeling. I am going to only do 1/2 mile runs 2xs a week and see how it goes. t10-l2 fusion
  • Majohns86 said:
    I had my three month check up and my doctor said based on my x rays i can start into running very slowly. I did a 1 mile run and I could feel my back muscles moving so I know I have some time to heal. It wasnt painful just tight feeling. I am going to only do 1/2 mile runs 2xs a week and see how it goes. t10-l2 fusion
    Glad to hear you are back to running and that's very exciting. I modified my running stance similar to the Newton method post fusion and found that it really helped with shock. Also, lots of light stretching pre and post workout,plenty of potassium in my diet to keep muscles from cramping, and of course staying well hydrated. Hope you take things slow, listen to your body, and backing off is not a setback, just a course adjustment to get you where you want to go!

    C7-T1 ACDF 12Dec2013
  • MissNixMMissNix Posts: 1
    edited 07/02/2015 - 9:23 PM
    Hey everyone, its been a year since I had my scoliosis surgery. and want to know if i can start exercising now ?
    I'm over not being able to do anything.

    Moderator's message...Please click on link for helpful information
    Welcome to Spine-Health
    You need to consult your doctor regarding exercise, nobody on the forum is medically qualified
  • i felt like the best I have ever felt, my PT started about 3 weeks ago deep tissue massage. Pushing with all of her weight on my rods and pins. Instantly I said this hurts and she said she knew what she was doing. The next day I couldn't get dressed and in so much pain. I tried one more time thinking I was doing so good maybe this is what I had to do, well now it has been three weeks and I am in worse pain before my surgery. I talked to my surgeon office and they said she must have pushed so hard that the scar tissue split and I would be in a Lot pain and prescribed steroids to help me. My back is swollen up and can't walk, sit or lay without pain. I am putting heat and ice, what should I do? Any advise?
    Sandy Simacek
  • OlyOOly Posts: 1
    edited 12/01/2015 - 11:04 PM
    September 2014 I broke 2 vertebrae in my upper back, another mid back break, fractured my neck, broken sternum, 5 broken ribs, punctured lungs .... the list goes on. 3 months post surgery I started trying to run as my very helpful surgeon (and crazy iron man runner) had said 'nothing is out of bounds, go do exercise'. It was freakin hard, I'm 46 and slim, I felt like I was double my body weight and about 80 years old. Since that time I've been on the usual hellish journey of drugs, pain and fatigue but I've continued to battle away. It's now been 15 months and I'm starting to feel pretty good, much better than I deserve to given my injuries. I know for most people a fused spine is not going to be a good mix with exercise but there is hope - I'm now running 3 times a week 10km's, swimming 2km a few times a week, doing lots of pilates and pushing some serious weights in the gym. Sure, I still experience nasty pain on a daily basis, bouts of fatigue plague me, and friends say 'are you doing too much?' but movement makes things better, much much better, and muscles protect me from pain.
  • SavageSavage United StatesPosts: 5,422
    edited 12/02/2015 - 7:18 AM

    Welcome to Spine-Health
    Please click on link for helpful information!
    Spine-Health Moderator
    Please read my medical history at: Medical History

  • IselasIIselas Posts: 2
    edited 01/03/2016 - 4:33 PM
    I am about to have an Ifuse procedure on my left SI joint. I've been reading one must not bear weight for anywhere from three weeks to three months.
    My surgeon doesn't believe I need to do this. Any comments from troupers who have been through this?
  • I'm 37 in January 2016 I had discetonomy L4/5. Stopped the leg pain but did nothing for my back.  By May my back major degenerative etc was worse then ever. Horrible inflammation and pain. So May 5th 2016 had an Interior Lumbar Enterbody Fusion. L4/5. I'm three weeks out now doing well. Tough surgery though. Some saitica but feeling confident. Worried though. Two surgeriesin four months. Prior to my back issues which began about a year ago hiking was my passion. Long back county hikes wheneverI could get off work for long periods. I even worked in Yellowstone for three years just for the hiking.  Plus I walk like a mad man.  I think this is what finally caused my back issues.  I know I'll never be the same and I have a long recovery ahead of me. But do you think I'll ever hike like I used to or even close.  How are you at this point?  It's weird. My doctors never give straight answers. I don't think they really know. 
  • mommabmmommab Southern CalPosts: 1
    I am sorry you had to go in twice. I did too, 10'days apart 2/22/16 and 3/5/16. PLIF L/4&L5 followed by a bone chip lodging in a nerve, a mild drop foot and my surgeon not liking where one screw ended up. I was thankful he was bold enough to say he needed to go back. I improved so greatly after revision. I am almost at three month, and my recovery has been a roller coaster but I went from walking 1.2 mph on treadmill to 3.4 in a month. I am 53 and not fit but not dramatically overweight. I was frustrated w weight gain, bored w simple exercises and feeling great, somInbefes for more (dos PT 2 hrs a day 3X a week and an hour a day at home on off days). My PT had me doing mild "shuffle" jog with treadmill slowed down and I backslide dramatically, SI issues and generally just feeling like we redound the clock. It took a couple weeks rest before I felt back to where I was. Listen to the doctors and PTs who say take it slow. It is SO discouraging to backslide and most people I have talked to say 18 mos-2 years before they found their "new normal".   Good luck!!!!!
  • It's been 1.5 years since my spinal stenosis operation. I used to be a marathon runner, went to step classes daily and did other gym-type fitness classes and weight training as well as outdoor hiking, biking, mountain climbing. I have only managed to be able to work full time at my (somewhat physical) job and take transit for an hour each way (with a mad sprint across a hihway to get se ond bus) and a walk uphill 1 mile daily to and from work. I am exhausted when I get home and am expected to cook and do dishes. No energy left to add more physical activity to my day. As a result I have gained 50 pounds since surgery. I'm only 5'5" so it's quite obvious of a physical change for me. I wish I had energy to do some sort of sport. I was swimming after work for a few months but it doesnt seem to burn fat the wah running does. I'm vegan too btw so I eag very healthily, no big dairy fats to contend with but perhaps its my carb intake what with beans and legumes and chia (vegan protein) big part of my foodsource. I wonder if it is safe to do a bit of running. Nothing like i did before ofcourse...those were marathons and lots of training miles. Has anyone out there gone back to running a whioe aftrf spine surgery? What were the results? I don't want to have to go through surgery again!!! Thanks and best wishes to those about to go through with the operatio . Scary for sure but the surgeons are quite incredible.

    Spinal Stenosis; post-surgery severe throbbing leg; sleep deprivation (pain) ; and now... incontinence issues!
  • SavageSavage United StatesPosts: 5,422
    Hello mommab !
    Welcome to Spine-Health
    Please click on link for helpful information!
    Spine-Health Moderator
    Please read my medical history at: Medical History

  • LarnersourLLarnersour Los Angeles, CAPosts: 52
    I'm so scared to do some effort after the accident, even if I know that actually i need it and i have to do it, but I'm scared about the pain, and those days i felt so bad!
    Share your experience with us, I'm interested!
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